Lee Dudley (1860-1942)
Knotts Island, NC, c. 1890
13 1/4 in. long
Dudley decoys have been held in the highest regard since the earliest days of collecting. In fact, two seminal books, Joel Barber's "Wild Fowl Decoys" and William J. Mackey's "American Bird Decoys," both begin their first chapter with stories of Dudley decoys and the authors' reverence for them. Barber's particular love of Dudleys is illustrated in the first three plates of his 1934 book; the first of which depicts two Dudley decoys prominently displayed top and center on a collection wall. In 1981 a panel of experts reviewing the decoy collection at the Shelburne Museum declared a Dudley decoy of Barber's to be the best of the museum's outstanding collection.
This decoy is one of the finest Dudley carvings ever to be offered at auction and one is hard pressed to find a more refined or elegant example. The artist's special treatment of the wing separation and pinch-breast carving sets it apart from most of the maker's forms. In his book American Bird Decoys, William J. Mackey was so impressed with Dudley's work that he wrote, the heads on Dudley's decoys are the finest the writer has ever seen.
This rare example carries excellent provenance and is in very good condition by Dudley standards. These points cannot be overstated. The provenance leads back to the early and important collection of George and Hope Wick.
The underside retains the original weight, a paper label with "66," and an "E.L.M." rig marking. A double stamp of this marking appears on the back as well. This known rig was owned by Pocahontas Fowling Club member Edward L. Maher. Most recently this decoy was selected to represent its region in "Wings of Wonder."
The Dudley decoy has always been known for its bold, singular form and this carving exemplifies all of the desirable attributes one looks for. To draw from "Decoys: A North American Survey," A visual study of the complete Dudley bird form, whatever the species, reveals an uninterrupted flow from bill tip to tail's end. The successful manner in which the bill fits into the lower cheeks, the cut of the neck-base, sweeping powerful chest, and smooth, curved body combine into one of the finer sculptural solutions in the decoy world...The Dudley carving style consistently depicts both the head and body forms as a totality, resulting in a fine sculptural portrait.
The form, execution, rarity, condition, and provenance of this sculpture place it among the finest Carolina decoys to have survived.
Old, possibly original, paint with gunning wear, age line in bill, putty applied to worn tail edges, original weight. In exceptional condition by Dudley standards.
Provenance: Edward L. Maher Rig, Pocahontas Fowling Club
George and Hope Wick Collection
Private Collection, Texas, acquired from the above, c. 1985
Private Collection, Georgia
Literature: Dr. S. Lloyd Newberry, "Wings of Wonder: The Remarkable Story of the Cobb Family and the Priceless Decoys They Created on Their Island Paradise." Columbia, SC, 2020, p. 177, exact decoy illustrated.
William J. Mackey Jr., American Bird Decoys, New York, 1965, pp. 13-14, pl. 1, Dudley decoys discussed, pp. 168-170, head carving discussed.
Joel Barber, "Wild Fowl Decoys," New York, NY, 1954, pp. 1-5, pl. 1-3.
Gene and Linda Kangas, Decoys: A North American Survey, Spanish Fork, UT, 1983, pp. 3-4, Dudley form discussed.
Henry A Fleckenstein Jr., "Southern Decoys of Virginia and the Carolinas," Exton, PA, 1983, p. 218, drake rigmate illustrated.
Kroghie Andresen, "Gunnin' Birds," Charlotte, NC, 2008, p. 80, drake rigmate illustrated.
Joe Engers, ed., 1996 Year In Review, Decoy Magazine, 1996, p. 33, drake rigmate illustrated.
Dick McIntyre, The Dudley Decoy, Decoy Magazine, March/April 1994, cover story, pp. 8-14.
Copley Fine Art Auctions, "The Sporting Sale 2011," Plymouth, MA, July 2011, lot 629, related example illustrated.
Copley Fine Art Auctions, "The Winter Sale 2011," New York, NY, January 2011, lot 331, related example illustrated.
Sotheby's and Guyette and Schmidt, "American Waterfowl Decoys: The Distinguished Collection of Dr. James M. McCleery," New York, NY, January 22â€“23, 2000, p. 82, lot 172, related redhead illustrated.
Please email condition report requests to email@example.com. Any condition statement given is a courtesy to customers, Copley will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition.